100 Miles East

In the summer of 2012 when, to my disappointment, a holiday abroad was off the cards, I struggled to feel anything enthusiastic at the thought of sharing my time with the underfoot, freely wandering pigeons and hooded figures that flooded into “Rovrums” centre every dreary Saturday.

chapel st leonards
Chapel St Leonards

Locking myself in a cold, dark cupboard seemed increasingly more appealing. And of course ‘summer’ is unmistakeably misleading when you spend 75% of your time staring aimlessly at blobs of rain racing each other down the windows as you comfort yourself with more food and Jezza Kyle. So, you can imagine my delight and relief when I was invited along to a caravan holiday with my parents – 5 miles away from Britain’s answer to Las Vegas, where the illustrious casinos and showgirls in the sun have been replaced with bingo and horse-bidding baldies. 100 miles east of what I regrettably have to call my hometown.

This was a place where the uneven grounds were completely overtaken by a never-ending sea of caravans in bleak shades of white, cream and pale green; the sorry heads of dog ornaments (possessing no sentimental value) stared blankly from the gaps in torn, yellowing net curtains. On the main street, (whereby a car may or may not pass once every two hours or so) outdated family clubs lay quietly complete with palm tree logos above signs where the once dazzling ‘Club Tropicana’ had now lost a substantial amount of letters. Through squinted eyes, ‘Lub Tropica’ simply didn’t have the same appeal.

Meanwhile, past the blacked out windows and uneven brickwork, afar from the expectations ‘Club Tropicana’ suggests, John Smith’s and Carlsburg stained tables (armed with complimentary beer mats under a leg to aid their balance) are scattered without direction across the tattered 80’s carpet. The bar staff, simply brimming with enthusiasm like the pints they serve, pace restlessly up and down the same section of tacky walkway gracing you with their hospitality. Offering you the unbelievably diverse selection of pie with chips or pie with potatoes; both with the predictable choice of locally grown strawberries for desert, naturally.

Over the road, a collection of ‘high street stores’, in garish yellow and red paint, chipped at the corners and all around like a piece of amateur patchwork, all sell the same identical ‘limited edition’ buckets and spades (not a matching set of course) and sticks of rock in flamboyant shades, all for what it costs to go for a wee back in a small town near Sheffield. Below me, the floor tiles, of a faded maroon, peep curiously through the messy scatter of sand brought in on the strapped sandals of young children fresh from the coastline made up of fuzzy grass banks of uneven shades and rippling pools of icy English pride.

Through the quaint window and over the rusty iron railings, as far as the eye can see – nothing. Emptiness. With the exception of the gradually crippling, fractionally buried ‘Admiral Bembo’ – half pub, half Galion – original! The occasional pensioner carelessly dragging a limping dog or two impatiently along the raised dust-covered path will be the only company you will find, excluding the absent presence of the distant turbines, failing to fulfil their duties as they stand sulking and shivering at sea. I have, on many occasions began the ‘result of boredom’ count of these seemingly minute creatures on the horizon, but lost count at around 53 each and every time, due to distraction. Not visual distraction. No, not in Chapel Saint Leonards…

And who could visit this Lincolnshire based village and fail to remember the world famous ‘licky licky man’, whose ice cream antics and wild, slightly creepy sense of humour should never, under any circumstances, be allowed within a mile of your children. Sunburnt vest lines and floral Englishmen’s shorts are, in this case, taken to the next level. A hazardous level.

At first glance, I have no doubt that you too would have immediately closed off your mind to any hope or promise of an enjoyable 168 long hours in Chapel Saint Leonards of which each hour would be intolerantly counted summing to a long and tedious week. However, as regular human beings of this day and age who are desperately battling out of the working class pit, we have progressively become brainwashed by snobbery and narrow minded, opinionated garbage – too much to realise, acknowledge or appreciate a beautiful landscape when we see one.

chapel st leonards
Chapel St Leonards

Until you too have visited Chapel Saint Leonards, you have no right to comment on true feelings of peace and perfection. By the same token, you have no true idea about the taste or smell of British food, until you have stood within five metres of Mary’s ice cream parlour and, due to the lack of inhabitants, arrived instantly at the beginning of the queue ready and waiting for your 6 doughnuts for £2. By far the best deal on the east coast.

You have never seen landscapes in their most natural and striking form or houses, bungalows and cottages side by side; long, winding ivy climbing creatively along the window frames and entwined around the cast iron drain pipes. You have never experienced variety in each and every form possible – colour, nature, company, weather, touch, smell, taste and sight. Of course, it seems progressions in technology and more efficient travel offers have led us to believe that a true holiday consists of excessive sun cream, heat stroke and foreign languages, ultimately making us forget the elements that aren’t at all fake and snobby.

Why spend thousands only to have the stress of your luggage sent to Dubai instead of Ibiza and your bag ‘misplaced’ from the side of your sun lounger? Why huff and puff when your son turns 14 and you realise that nowadays that means he’s an adult, like yourself, meaning an extra hundred pound or two? Why give in to all the fakery when you could in fact kick back in Chapel Saint Leonards with your fish and chips, a beer and your loved ones and enjoy a real British holiday.

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